Coming into Sunday’s Samsung 500, Jeff Gordon had not been to victory lane since the Bank of America 500 on October 13, 2007, a streak of 47 races.
That is a thing of the past now.
Gordon’s pit crew was quick enough during the final pit stop on lap 307 to get Gordon the lead. From there, Gordon had to hold off resurgent teammate Jimmie Johnson to win the Samsung 500.
The victory was Gordon’s first career victory at Texas Motor Speedway in the Sprint Cup Series. Now, the only track remaining on the Sprint Cup calendar where Gordon has not won is Homestead-Miami Speedway in south Florida, which was added to the schedule in 1999.
After the race, Gordon was absolutely glowing during the press conference. “It feels like the very first time I’ve ever won,” Gordon said Sunday evening.
In regards to TMS, Gordon was even happier.
“I think this is probably the best place we could have won, because it’s [Texas] eluded us for so long,” Gordon said.
Prior to Sunday’s race, Texas had been one of, if not the worst of all the tracks on the schedule for Gordon. Texas is the site of Gordon’s only two last-place finishes in his career (including last year in this race). Even with Sunday’s victory, Gordon’s average finish at Texas is a little over 15th.
Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Johnson brought his No. 48 Chevrolet home in second.
“We just didn’t have it [the car] right for some reason,” Johnson said. “We made some changes last night, and yesterday (under different weather conditions); the car was so comfortable and predictable. I think it took us a couple of stops to kind of recognize that the track wasn’t going to come to us.”
Mark Martin finished sixth for his second consecutive top-10 finish, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya with another good run. Kurt Busch, winner earlier this season at Atlanta was eighth, followed by Jeff Burton and Carl Edwards rounding out the top 10.
Although the event had six yellows for 30 laps, the race had a “green-flag feel” for most of the race. Drivers, when they took the lead, often ran away with it, stretching out the entire field. Despite this, it was still generally a competitive race with a thrilling duel towards the end.
Points Standings (Top 12)
Gordon’s victory and the mediocre 22nd-place finish put up by Clint Bowyer have resulted in a substantial increase in Gordon’s points lead. Gordon now leads by 162 points over his teammate Johnson. This lead is large enough so that no matter what Johnson does at Phoenix in two weeks, he cannot take the points lead unless Gordon somehow doesn’t start the race. Busch is still in third, now 180 points out of the lead. Bowyer’s 22nd-place finish has dropped him two spots to fourth.
Stewart is up two positions to fifth this week after a strong run to a fourth-place finish. Granted, it could have been even higher, but Stewart’s not really complaining at this point. Denny Hamlin is next, just 25 points behind Stewart. Kyle Busch is down one spot to seventh after an 18th-place finish. Kyle Busch had contact with John Andretti on the backstretch, resulting in a cut tire. This necessitated a green-flag pit stop that cost Busch nearly two laps. Busch was never able to get his lap back, but moved up from 33rd to his eventual 18th-place finishing position. Edwards, despite having the car to beat at one point during the race, remains in eighth place after a 10th-place finish on Sunday. Mistakes on the final pit stop dropped Edwards from the lead to 11th.
Kenseth is up three spots to ninth after a fifth-place finish. This was Kenseth’s first top-10 finish since his victory at Fontana. Kasey Kahne is back to 10th after another so so day on Sunday. Kahne brought home his Budweiser Dodge a lapped 19th. Just six points behind Kahne is David Reutimann. Reutimann ran in the top 10 the entire race until his pit crew serviced the Aaron’s Toyota outside the box during a round of green-flag pit stops. This cost him a lap, which he eventually regained via the free pass. Reutimann was able to get back to 11th by the end, but he likely could have had a top five had the penalty never happened. Burton rounds out the top 12 and Montoya is the first driver outside of the top 12, 16 points behind Burton.
Around the Cutoff
Coming into the race, Paul Menard’s No. 98 team had only a three-point cushion over the No. 71 for TRG Motorsports. The team, even though they were locked into the field, needed to have a good run to give them some security. Luckily, Menard was able to accomplish this feat on Sunday.
Menard seemed to really be excited all weekend, not just in the Sprint Cup Series, but in the Nationwide Series as well. Menard’s identically painted No. 98 in the Nationwide Series was the fastest car in the final practice session, qualified third, and then finished fifth. The performance wasn’t quite as stellar on Sunday, but at this point, Yates Racing will take a 13th-place finish for Menard. Previously, his best finish this season had been 25th. This moved the No. 98 up three spots to 32nd in owner points.
The team around the cutoff that was hurt the most on Sunday was the No. 7 team for Robby Gordon Motorsports. Robby Gordon hadn’t been having the greatest day on Sunday, but he was at least running competitively two laps down when the engine expired on lap 251, ending his day. This relegated the No. 7 to a 39th-place finish and dropped Robby Gordon to 34th in owner points. He now has a 21-point edge over Joey Logano, who struggled to a 30th-place finish despite qualifying 10th. The margin is 44 between Gordon and David Gilliland’s No. 71 in 36th.